Monthly Archives: June 2013

An honest conversation about obesity

“That they might have joy” column by Jacki Wood

I have fibromyalgia. It’s a big word for a syndrome that basically means I’ve been in pain every day since 1996.

Some days have been tolerable, some rough and some downright unbearable.

It’s also basically how I became obese. Well, sort of.

But I’m getting ahead of myself…

I was very active growing up. I loved playing everything from soccer and softball to basketball and football. It’s also how I dealt with life’s stresses. This continued when I went to college. If I had a problem, I went out and played ball until I felt better.

During my junior year at BYU, I was probably the most active and fit I’d ever been in my life. And then one day, I woke up and I hurt everywhere. That was 1996.

Time passed. I was diagnosed. I dealt with it. Sometimes with success. Sometimes not so much.

It was several years later and dealing with a family member’s health issue that finally sent me over the edge… to self-medication. Not with alcohol or drugs. But with food.

I no longer could deal with stress by playing basketball. And so I turned to food.

I’m not going to go into all of the details, but my lifestyle had become mainly sedentary due to the pain of fibromyalgia. And that collided with my newfound solace in bad food – and a lot of it.

That was around 2001. The self-medicating continued for several years while I started packing on the pounds.

I tried a couple of times to lose weight, and had some success, but it wasn’t sustainable and I fell back into old habits.

Then in December of 2011, a friend of mine asked if I was interested in participating with her in the New Year’s Challenge at the Maryville Community Center. At first, I really only agreed so I’d be able to see her more often on my weekly trips to Maryville for work.

Then that Christmas, we traveled to Florida to see family and take our kids to The Wizarding World of Harry Potter. It was a great trip. But it was also life-changing for me.

The day we went to the park, we headed straight for the Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey ride. Everyone was excited. But as we approached the castle, my excitement turned into terror. I noticed one of those seats at the beginning of the line; you know, the ones to see if you’re too fat to fit on the ride.

I was horrified. I hadn’t been on a roller coaster in several years and wondered if I was now too fat to ride one. Well, I wasn’t, but it was a very uncomfortable situation, both literally and figuratively.

That experience probably could’ve been enough for me to want to change. But there was more.

The following day, my husband took a picture of me sitting next to his nephew’s wife. When he showed it to me, I was clearly more than twice her size. Now, in my defense, she maybe weighs a hundred pounds soaking wet. But the photo spoke volumes to me.

I was obese, plain and simple.

It was a fact I already knew. But seeing it in the photo – combined with the amusement park ride the day before – struck something new deep down inside of me.

I had to make some real changes.

And so I did. Since I had already signed up for the New Year’s Challenge, I now had the commitment and accountability to help.


So why am I talking about this now, a year and a half later? Well, there are a lot of reasons.

First of all, I think it’s a conversation that needs to take place. It’s a serious health concern that many of us would rather just avoid talking about, one I avoided for many years.

Secondly, I think we all need to do a lot less judging and have more understanding for others. It’s not like one day I woke up and said I think I want to eat unhealthy amounts of bad food and become obese. Did I make mistakes? Yes. A lot of them. But there were also underlying issues that led me down that path.

Lastly, it’s hard to lose weight, especially when you’re also battling another illness. Indescribably hard. But it is possible. And we need to help encourage others.

Since January of 2012, I’ve lost 80 pounds with another 20 to go to reach my goal. It’s a constant battle. Sometimes two steps forward and one back. Sometimes two or three back.

People ask me how I’ve done it but I’ve found there’s not an easy answer for that. Each journey is different because each person and circumstance is different. Because of my fibromyalgia pain, I did it mainly through changing the way I eat.

I’m not telling you my story for recognition. I’m sharing it to hopefully offer a little encouragement. It’s a story I was scared to tell but one I think is more important than my pride or my embarrassment.

Brené Brown said: “Owning our story and loving ourselves through that process is the bravest thing that we’ll ever do.”

It has been for me. And I believe it can be for you, too.

Play Ball! Father passes his love of the game on to his son

By Jacki Wood for the Nodaway News Leader
Editor’s note: this is the fourth in the series


Albert Theodore Powers said: “Baseball is sunshine, green grass, fathers and sons, our rural past.”

That’s what Maryville resident Jeff Lyle loves about the game.

“It brings me back to my roots,” he said.

The 42-year-old has been a fan of the game all of his life and a fan of the Kansas City Royals ever since going to Kauffman Stadium as a little boy with his grandpa.

“This is where my love of the game comes from,” he said. “I love baseball because it’s a wholesome sport that brings me back to my childhood, simpler times and just good old fashion fun.”

And now he’s passing that love onto his son, Trystan, who attends all of the Royals’ games with him.

Lyle also coaches Trystan’s team during the summer.

“Watching my soon-to-be 15-year-old son play short stop is one of my favorite things to do in the world,” he said. “I’ve given up Royals front-row seats to watch my son play a pick-up game on a Saturday afternoon.”

In addition to watching his son and the Royals play, Lyle also enjoys learning about the history of his favorite team. He and Trystan frequently tour the Royals Hall of Fame at Kauffman Stadium.

“Kauffman is good about keeping the Hall of Fame fresh by adding new things,” he said.

He’s also been to the Missouri Sports Hall of Fame in Springfield and would love to see more of those types of venues, he said.

Last year, he had the opportunity of taking in the All-Star Fan Fest when the All-Star game was in Kansas City.

“It was amazing,” he said. “I felt like a little kid in a candy store.”

Over the years, he’s also compiled quite a baseball collection.

“My wife calls it my addition, not collection,” he said. “I own all the Kauffman Stadium giveaway Bobbleheads, which are also on display in the Hall of Fame.”
He has also renovated an entire room in his home just for his Royals collection which includes both vintage and new items, jerseys, toys, coolers, All-Star merchandise, broken game bats and “too much more to mention,” he said.

“It’s quite overwhelming and very impressive,” he continued. “I’ve spent a lot of time and money collecting it and finding just that right item here and there.”

Other fun baseball fan facts about Lyle include his favorite ballpark is Kauffman Stadium since that’s where the Royals play, his favorite ballpark food is a stadium hot dog and “The Bad News Bears” with Walter Matthau is his favorite baseball movie.

For Lyle, what baseball really means is wholesome fun with family and friends, he said, especially with Trystan.

“I’m so glad I’ve been given the opportunity to share my love of baseball with my son,” he said.

“Keeping the sport alive is up to the fans. I’ve got my part covered.”

Road tripping with the 100 Missouri Miles challenge

Wandering Alongside the Woods column by Jacki Wood

Summer + The Great Outdoors + Road Trips = Missouri.


Yes, our beautiful backyard that is the Show-Me State.

I’ve brought back my road trip column with a challenge for you to kick off the summer fun. Or, rather, Gov. Nixon has. And I think it’s a really great idea.

Earlier this year, Missouri was honored by being named the Best Trails State in the country, which led the governor to launch the “100 Missouri Miles” initiative recently. It challenges Missourians to complete 100 miles of outdoor physical activity by the end of the year.

“Whether you run, walk, bike, paddle or roll, everyone can participate,” Nixon said. “This initiative is a great opportunity to promote Missouri’s proud outdoor heritage, improve your health and — best of all — have fun with family and friends.”

While the idea is to get active and see more of outdoor Missouri, I think it’s also a good excuse to road trip. Our family has taken the challenge and I’m excited to explore the many places and events in the state that we have yet to discover.

In addition to getting your 100 miles in, I suggest doing and seeing a little more. Visit a museum or historical site, eat local food, go shopping and attend special events.

One place I’m looking forward to returning to and seeing more of is Hannibal, boyhood home of Mark Twain. We took our kids there for the first time six years ago.

There’s tons to see and do — museums, the riverboat on the Mississippi River, a cave and Mark Twain State Park, which includes hiking trails and a lake.

Make sure you stop at the Mark Twain Family Restaurant, Hannibal’s hometown restaurant since 1942, where we enjoyed the famous frosty mugs of homemade root beer, onion rings served by the foot and Mississippi mud malts.

The historic community also boasts a ton of events, music and festivals throughout the summertime. Visit for more information.

Other places on my list of 100 Missouri Miles road trips this year include:

Bothwell Lodge State Historic Site near Sedalia. Built atop a bluff and two natural caves, the 20th Century lodge has 31 rooms and original furnishings as well as hiking and biking trails. In addition, the historic site is hosting “Cameras at the Castle Photo Contest” which is free and open to the public and runs through October 1.

Ha Ha Tonka State Park near Lake of the Ozarks. Highlights of the park include the stone ruins of a turn-of-the-20th-century castle, a lake, caves, natural bridges and trails.

Cuivre River State Park in northeast Missouri. Miles of hiking trails curving through tall prairie grasses, woodlands and Big Sugar Creek are featured in this park as well as fishing and camping.

Johnson’s Shut-Ins State Park in southeastern Missouri. The park has a little something for everyone — camping, fishing, swimming, rock climbing, mountain biking and hiking through 1.4 billion years of geologic history.

Iliniwek Village State Historical Site in northeast Missouri. This area was once home to an Illinois Indian village when Louis Jolliet and Jacques Marquette came through in 1673. The trails provide information about the village’s inhabitants.

Elephant Rocks State Park in southeast Missouri. Named after the giant elephant-shaped granite boulders, the park includes a trail that winds through the rocks and picnic areas.

There are also some great shorter road trip or day trip destinations closer to home like Crowder State Park near Trenton or Watkins Mill State Park and Historic Site near Lawson, both of which are beautiful.

And if you’re just trying to get your 100 Missouri Miles in, Nodaway County’s own Mozingo Lake has great trails and the Missouri Department of Conservation has several natural areas throughout the state which are also great for hiking and exploring.

To sign up for the 100 Missouri Miles initiative, visit You can also check out other places to explore at or

Happy road tripping.

Refracted: seeing life in a different light

 His spirit is willing but his body is weak.

Diagnosed with inoperable pancreatic cancer in August, Maryville resident Gus Rischer was told he had up to six months to live.

“I’m getting near the end of my road,” the soft-spoken 83-year-old said.

While his body has been failing him the last few months, his mind tells a different tale… still razor sharp as he shares his story… about his family, coming to Maryville, his stained-glass hobby and his decision to choose hospice care.


Originally from St. Louis, Rischer attended Pepperdine University and California State University, Los Angeles, for undergraduate and graduate degrees before returning to Missouri. In 1968, he began his tenure at Northwest Missouri State University where he was a psychology professor and chairman of the department for eight years before retiring in 1991.

He and his late wife, Katie, have three sons, Brad, Jon and Greg, and three grandchildren.


Rischer has been down the brutal and unforgiving cancer road before with his wife. So it was an easy decision to not have any of what he called “false kinds” of treatment like chemotherapy or radiation after his diagnosis.

“I watched my wife die with that,” he said. “It was a miserable process with her and I didn’t particularly look forward to experiencing it.”

He looked at what options were available and chose hospice care through SSM Hospice of Northwest Missouri in Maryville.

“I decided to take it as it comes and live in my own home until I can’t do it anymore,” he said.


In the last several months, the care given through hospice staff members has helped Rischer and his family deal with the reality of the prognosis.

It has also enabled him the time at home to go through his remaining stained-glass treasures, hundreds of pieces he’s crafted over the last 13 years, and give them to his children and grandchildren.

Frogs and teddy bears. Window hangings for the holidays. A slew of picture frames. And his personal favorites — two complete sets of ducks.

“I really enjoyed making the ducks,” he said. “I had spent hours and hours making them for myself.”

One set has now gone to his son, Brad, and the other will go to his son, Jon.


Walking around his home, showing off that set of stained-glass ducks which Jon hasn’t received yet, Rischer’s step is noticeably slower. And his voice a little more weathered. But brief moments of joy flash across his face as he describes in detail his love of the hobby.

It began when a friend of his was visiting Maryville.

“He was making figurines to hang in windows,” Rischer said. “So I asked him if he could teach me. Before he left, he had taught me how to cut glass, how to weld it and how to put it in a frame.”


Rischer completed his very first project, a stained glass window for his bathroom, on his friend’s next visit to town.
 Since that time, he said he’s made three to four hundred items, at least, which he’s given away.

“It was fun to learn and to watch myself progress and get better,” he said. “And then to see other people enjoy it.”

But because of the pain from pancreatic cancer over the last few months, his abilities have declined.


The hospice care staff has been wonderful in many ways, Rischer said, especially in helping him manage the pain.

“They’re a special kind of people,” he said.

One aspect he has especially enjoyed has been the time spent visiting with a pastor.

“I’m not a very religious person but the pastor who comes to visit, I enjoy his visits,” he said. “He’s a very intelligent man and we just talk, not necessarily anything religious. Maybe about something in the news. We enjoy each other’s viewpoints on daily happenings.”


Looking out Rischer’s front room window, the view unfolds the rolling hills and fields that are so characteristic of the Midwest landscape. The setting sun just above the horizon streams light into his stained-glass window.

The process of the artistry that went into that first project — and all of them since then — begins with picking out 12×12- or 12×14-inch pieces of glass.

After gluing a pattern of what he wants to make onto the glass, it is cut with a special glass cutter and the edges are smoothed with a grinder.

The pattern is then removed and copper foil is wrapped around all of the pieces which are put together like a puzzle, he said, one against the other so the soldering can begin.

When each of the pieces has been soldered on both sides of the glass, the project is finished by being cleaned and waxed.

“It’s an interesting, lengthy, multi-skilled process,” he said.


Rischer’s hospice care could also be described as a multi-skilled process. In addition to the pastor who visits an hour each week, he also has a social worker, physical therapist and a nurse who comes to his home every three days or whenever he needs more attention.

“Hospice is a wonderful organization,” he said. “And the one we have in Maryville is an award-winning organization.”


While Rischer saw his stained-glass artwork as simply a hobby, after many hours of practice, he’s been able to produce many beautiful and wonderful pieces.

To be truly enjoyed, stained glass depends on refracted light. Only after light passes through the glass can the beauty and wonder be seen.

Refraction is defined as a change in direction because of a change in the medium. It can also be defined as altering something by viewing it differently.

With stained glass, it is the turning or bending of the light when it passes through the colored pieces at different angles.

With Rischer, it has been the opportunity to see life in a different light through his hospice care, especially through the care given to him by his nurse.

“You have to be a special kind of nurse to be a hospice nurse and we’ve got some dandies,” he said. “Most nurses treat people so they can get well. Hospice nurses are treating me so I can get ready to pass on. And that takes a special kind of intelligence and skill and psychological makeup to deal with it.”